Paros - Cyclades - Greece - A Journey Through Time
Thursday 06 July 2017
Its time to say goodbye to Naxos and after the farewells, I load up the bags and also Jana to head for the port in Naxos Town. Jana was catching a ferry to Rafina, just outside Athens where she would catch her flight back to Germany. I returned the car and found a café to while away a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the couple of hours was extended to several hours due to the rough seas delaying the ferries. Eventually, I boarded and the ferry was heading for Paros, where it arrived a couple of hours later than expected. A man from the car hire company was standing by the dockside with a placard with ‘Philip Cooper’ on I quickly followed him to the car, loaded up the luggage and headed to Piso Livadi where I was to spend the remainder of the holiday.
As I had no map I followed the coast road around the bottom of the island and up the right-hand side – not knowing there was a more direct route straight across the island. Once I arrived at Piso Livadi I had then to find our accommodation – not the easiest of things to do in a strange place. I resorted to ringing the owner, telling her where I was and she drove to find me. I followed Artemis, the owner, back to the Panorama apartments. They were set up on the hillside with panoramic views over Piso Livadi, the harbor and the sea – lovely! The apartment was spotless, a small kitchenette, bathroom, and bedroom together with patio, table, and chairs. Artemis was really welcoming, presented me with breakfast toasty biscuits, fruit juice and a pot of her homemade apricot jam. After unpacking I made a shopping list and headed for the supermarket. I failed in this mission and had to ask for directions. After returning the shopping and chilling out for a while, I walked into town, a nice ten-minute walk down the hill. I wandered around getting my bearings before settling down at a taverna for a Greek salad and wine.
Friday 07 July 2017
As I had a car for a few days I decided to make good use of it and head off to the delightful little fishing village of Naoussa, in the north of the island. The beautiful picturesque fishing village of Naoussa is located in a huge bay in the northern part of Paros, 10 kilometres east from the capital, Parikia. Naoussa is considered to be one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades and, despite the tourism development, this lovely village has managed to keep its authenticity, its traditional character and its charm, with its whitewashed and flowered little houses and its tiny whitewashed churches and chapels, surrounded by labyrinth-like narrow, stone-paved streets. Naoussa is built around a tiny charming port where colourful little fishing boats called caiques moor and the remains of a Venetian castle can still be seen, creating a unique and enchanting atmosphere. Little taverns and ouzeries border the port, giving a friendly and traditional atmosphere. Every 23rd of August, nine days after the Assumption of the Virgin, a great festivity is celebrated in Naoussa, during which a representation of the pirate’s raids is performed by the young people of the village, fireworks are thrown while dancing, eating and drinking continues until dawn. I wandered around the harbour, watching the Egyptian fishermen mending their nets, visited the church of Agios Nikolaos in the harbour and meandered around the tiny streets. I then motored on to Glifades on the east coast and stopped for something to eat before returning to Piso Livadi. In the evening, I ventured inland to Lefkes up in the mountains, where I had an evening meal in a lovely taverna sitting in an elevated position and looking out over the rooftops of Lefkes to the Church of Agia Triada. I sat and watched the sun go down looking over the hills beyond the church.
Saturday 08 July 2017
Once again, I make use of the car and head west back across the island to the capital Parikia. One thing I have to say about both Naxos and Paros – there are plenty of car parks and they are all free!! After coffee on the seafront, I explore the interior of the town, visiting the Frankish Castle – of which very little remains and Agios Konstantinos Church which is perched to one side of the harbour and overlooks the sea and where a live baptism was taking place. I returned to the seafront to visit the patisserie where I bought a cheese and spinach pie for my lunch.
I next visited the Parikia Panagia Ekatontapyliani (the Church of 100 doors) which is located few metres from the port. Panagia Ekatontapyliani is a fantastic and awesome historic Byzantine church complex and contains a main chapel surrounded by two more chapels and a baptistery with a cruciform font.
The origin of the church's name is obscure, as it does not have one hundred doors or gates. A theory suggests that it is a corruption of the name "Katapoliani", i.e. "Lower Town church", as it lies by the sea in the lower part of the town of Parikia.
This is one of the best-preserved Paleo-Christian monuments in the Balkan and Mediterranean regions. According to the legend, the original church was constructed by Saint Constantine, the first Emperor of Constantinople, after the offering of his mother, Saint Helene. During her journey to the Holy Land to search for the Holy Cross, a storm brought Saint Helene in Paros, where she promised to the Virgin to build a church if her quest were successful. This church was built by her son Constantine after her death and it was dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin.
The original church dates to 326 and was constructed in the 4th century A.D. and was a three-aisled basilica. In the 6th century A.D., the Byzantine Emperor Justinian made reformations to the church and added a dome. More reformations were performed through the centuries and today the church is a complex of Paleo Christian, Byzantine, and post-Byzantine elements. Considering that the first Christians used to build their churches with parts of the ancient temples, this church also has marble parts from antiquities located in Paros.
Its oldest features likely predate the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire in 391. The church was purportedly founded by the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (ruled 306–337), Saint Helen, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land when she stopped to worship at a chapel on the island. Later Justinian is credited for initiating construction on the site as well.
The name Ekatontapiliani means the Church with the 100 doors. According to tradition, the church has 99 doors and a secret door will open when the church of Hagia Sofia in Constantinople will be Orthodox again. The entire complex of Ekatontapiliani comprises the main church of Virgin Mary with the internal chapels of Agios Anargiros, Agios Philippos and Osia Theoktisti (who lived and died in this monastery in the 9th century A.D.). Outside the main church, there are the chapels of Agios Nikolaos, Agia Theodosia, and Agios Dimitrios. In the yard of the monastery, there is also a baptistery and the cells of the monks.
The site was badly damaged by an earthquake in the 18th century but gradually restored. The Ekatontapyliani is a renowned Marian pilgrimage church of the Aegean, second only to the famed Megalochare church on nearby Tinos Island. It is considered the protector of Paros and its icon is believed to be miracle-working.
I sat in the peaceful gardens to the side of the church and ate my pies before making my way back to the car and the journey onwards.
Next stop - The butterfly valley - Valley of Petaloudes. It’s a small green oasis (very small) near the south coast of Paros and has a colony of – not butterfly’s but moths. This valley is popularly referred to as Petaloudes, which means in Greek butterflies. Every year during the summer months the graceful trees of the valley give out a sweet fragrance that draws the Jersey Tiger Moths like a magnet. This valley is, in fact, a very important biotope for these moths, which in Greece can only be found on Paros and Rhodes, while in the rest of the world you can admire them in a couple of places such as Turkey and Britain. The Butterfly Valley is nicely tucked away on the foot of a hill just beneath a natural well. The entire area is quite similar to a park and there are well-defined pathways that meander through the length and breadth of the Butterfly Valley. You will be able to spot the butterflies in shaded areas close to the stone fences or in bushes. Very often it is difficult to spot them as the butterflies camouflage themselves in the color of the leaves. They are literally clinging to each other and there is very little difference between them and the leaves. Visitors are advised not to disturb the butterflies. If you don't manage to take a picture of them, there is a small shop at the entrance gate, which has a good collection of postcards of the butterflies from the valley. Unfortunately, it was rather small and there was very little to see, leaving me rather disappointed.
Having read this and my article on Naxos - which island would you prefer to visit?
Sunday 09 July 2017
Only half a day with the car today as I must return it midday. I decide to head up to the north-east corner today. After getting totally lost down dirt tracks I eventually found Santa Maria surf beach, where I stop for coffee. In this area, there are lots of rather expensive looking private villas and a few posh hotels dotted around. It was very popular and quite crowded. I returned to Piso Livadi and spend the rest of the day on the local beach.
Monday 10 July 2017 – Thursday 13 July 2017
After a leisurely breakfast, I walked the 2 kilometres around to Logaras beach where I spent the day lazing on the beach, swimming, snorkelling and generally chilling out. The Taverna that owned the sunbeds and umbrellas let you use them on the condition you ate there, which is what I did. The food was really good and I had a really nice Greek salad with the usual bottle of Mythos beer. After paying the bill the restaurant owner proffered two delicious chocolate filling and chocolate-coated balls called Troufes.
Friday 14 July 2017
I walk into Piso Livadi to once again pick up a car for the remainder of the holiday. I set off south along the coastal road and stopped at Faragas for an iced coffee. This was one swish resort! There was a car park attendant and I then walked towards the beach area which had been developed with bars, cafes, tavernas, big padded sun loungers, young good-looking waiters for women and gorgeous waitresses for me. Everything looked very new and I have since discovered that it only opened in June this year. Very nice if you enjoy being packaged in this way.
Following the coast road west, I stopped at Pounta, a very small port with regular ferries to Anti-Paros. The ferry ride is very short and you can clearly see Antiparos Town from Pounta. I went on to the Pounta kite surfing beach. In fact, there were several small beaches with fine sand adjoining each other, all full of kite surfing enthusiasts, kites everywhere, and kite surfing schools.
The nice beach of Pounta is situated about 8 kilometres southwestern to the town of Parikia, facing the island of Antiparos. The seafront tavernas offer fresh fish and seafood, along with the delicacies of the local kitchen. Pounta is a well-organised beach suitable for swimming and sunbathing and for various sea sports such as windsurfing and underwater activities. This is the kite surfer’s Mecca in Paros, and one of the most popular kite surfing destinations in all of Europe. The steady side-shore winds that prevail in the Paros-Antiparos channel, are perfectly combined with a sandy seabed and shallow waters without big waves, offering ideal and safe conditions for kite surfing. The Meltemi, a wind that blows most afternoons from the north is strong enough with an average of 20-35 knots speed to facilitate the kite surfers.
It was awesome just watching the surfers race across the open water, being dragged by their kites.
I then motored on past Parikia where I stopped for lunch at the yacht club of Paros. Monastiri beach was my next stop, which is situated on the north-west peninsula. There is a lovely little church there - Agios Ioannis that I looked around and climbed onto the roof of. There is also an old boatyard there with lots of rather sad looking crafts in varying stages of decay.
In the evening, I decided to visit the Monastery of Agios Antonios on Kefalos Hill above Marpissa and Piso Livadi to see the sunset. Every evening I could see the lights of the monastery from the apartment's veranda. Driving up to the monastery turned out to be the most hair-raising drive I had ever attempted. The hill the monastery was atop was four hundred metres high and the road (if you can describe it as a road) was rather basic – sometimes dirt track, sometimes concrete gridded. Also, it was rather narrow (no wider than the car and I shuddered to think what to do if a car was coming down) and twisted its way up the hill, frequently going back on itself. I took a deep breath and put the car into first gear at the bottom, hit the accelerator and roared up without stopping. I had white knuckles during the whole drive and wisely decided to leave the car slightly down from the monastery in a convenient run-off and walk the rest of the way. I had expected to be the only person up there but was disappointed to find a group of French tourists had set up camp in the monastery, armed with food and alcoholic beverages. I was able to look around the small church and the middle-aged female Greek custodian gave a talk about its history in Greek. The Monastery of Agios Antonios was built at the top of the pointy Kefalos Hill near Marpissa. It was founded in 1597 and is one of the oldest monasteries on the island. It has been inhabited by monks since 1642, and in the 18th century, it became the property of Blachias Nikolaou Mavrogeni and flourished financially. The monastery closed in 1834, due to the small number of monks in situ. The monastery takes its name from its church, which is impressive for its size, with two domes and Ionic columns supporting the altar.
In spring, the monastery is open to the public and tours are offered.
Once I had seen and photographed the marvellous sunset I scrambled down to the car and drove extremely slowly down in first gear foot on the brake to the bottom.
Kite Surfing on Paros
Saturday 15th July 2017
Heading inland north west from Piso Livadi, my first stop today was the delightful village of Prodromos. It is a picturesque and beautiful settlement located on a hill. The initial name of the village was Dragoulas but in 1953 it took its current name from the church of St. John the Prodrome that was built at the time. Here, at the church of St. John the Prodrome, is held one of the most important feasts of Paros on the 23rd of June. Its whitewashed cube houses, tiny white chapels, and beautiful churches are built really close to each other. The village's entrance is an arch with a vaulted roof and a belfry. This arch joins together the churches of St. Nicolas and St. Spyridon and at the same time, it prevents the entrance of vehicles into the village. I spent some hours wandering around the tidy, narrow streets, all festooned with bougainvillea and other flowers in tubs out in the streets and in the houses front courtyards. One front yard I passed had been taken over completely with little animals, a church and windmill, mostly made from pebbles collected from the beach. The owner invited me into her front yard to inspect her work – turtles predominated and there must have been dozens of them, but there were also ducks and pigs. She had spent the last five years making these models and I joked that I would put them on the internet and make her famous. She was a little nervous about this as I could see. I ended up at a small local café, sitting in the street with iced coffee whilst indoors half a dozen or more local older men played cards or backgammon (Greek Tavli), accompanied with tiny glasses of Tzipero or small cups of Greek coffee, which is always served with a glass of water. The cafeterias are a purely male preserve and I've yet to see a Greek woman in one, the woman I guess are busy at home doing the cleaning and cooking – probably glad to have the men from under their feet!
I then drove on to Lefkes, the first capital of Paros, situated in the middle of Paros. It is the most mountainous village of Paros and the most verdurous one. The village is located under a pinewood on the hill and the houses are built amphitheatrically. The first residents were immigrants that came from Crete and Naoussa and locals who chose to build their village on the mountain, in order to be protected from the pirates. Ramnos, the central street of the village is located among neoclassic buildings, the school, the former community building and the House of Literature. The Parians and the visitors of Paros take their walk along this street or they go to the stores of the area and to the cafeterias at the small square, where the war memorial is situated. There are wonderful views of the sea with Naxos in the background. On the hills around the village, there are windmills, many of which have been restored and at the edge of the village. All transport in Lefkes is on foot, there being two parking lots at the entrance of the village. The narrow streets would certainly not take cars and it makes walking around lovely paved alleys of the village an exceptional experience. Limy stone benches, buildings of folklore architecture, bougainvillea’s in almost all houses and various other plants and flowers. I eventually arrived at The Church of Agia Triada with the famous belfries that have been recently restored, which unfortunately was closed.
Returning to the car I head due North which is only possible via Parikia. I eventually arrive in Kolimbithres where I have lunch at a lovely taverna – Kolimbithres Taverna - overlooking the sea with Naoussa in the distance. After lunch, I wandered down to the waters-edge to look at the strange rock formations that this area is famous for. I later returned to Piso Livadi for a meal looking out over Piso Livadi harbour.
Sunday 16th July 2017
It’s my last day on the island and Naoussa is calling me back. I park up and head for the marina where I find a café for iced coffee, looking out on the luxury yachts parked in the marina. I then spend hours ambling around the harbour area and the back street – all car-free. In one of the many boutiques I met a Greek lady who looked after cats and kittens – there were about half a dozen tiny kittens playing around the shop. She explained to me that she was part of a Paros Cats Protection League which looked after cats until they could find homes for them abroad in countries such as Germany and Britain. They would make sure the cats were passported, neutered and generally healthy before they are shipped off to their new owners for a cost of only €100, very reasonable.
I then make it up to the modern roman catholic church that stands out above the town before returning to the town for spinach and two cheese pies, sitting at a patisserie near the seafront watching life go by. I returned to Piso Livadi for the afternoon on the local beach and I have a final swim in Paros and possibly my final swim in the sea for the year.
In the evening, I walked to Logaras beach for my final meal at the taverna on the beach I had been using during the day. I wanted to have my favourite fried meatballs (very healthy) washed down with their homemade wine and finished off with their usual chocolate balls or truffles and watermelon.
Monday 17th July 2017
I pack my bags and after fond farewells, with Artemis, I drive down to the car hire shop where I change cars as they are kindly going to drive me across the island to Parikia for the ferry ride to Mykonos. I return to a café on the seafront for iced coffee whilst waiting for the ferry to arrive – it was late once again due to the rough seas! The journey was a little choppy but it eventually arrived at the port in Mykonos I had left three weeks ago. I look for a man with a board saying Adonis – the name of my accommodation. After finding him, loading up the bags he headed east across Mykonos to a seaside resort on the south coast called Kalo Livadi. He talked continuously during the journey and his driving left a lot to be desired – I was hanging on to the door handle all the way. The accommodation was very basic but it was only for one night and the owner was friendly and helpful. I walked down to the beach to spend the afternoon chilling out – if only! The music was horrendous I ended up walking as far as I could along the beach to get away from the thumping music. The beach was very touristy, lots of families and couples, lots of bare breasts and if you wanted to pay €20 you could have a luxurious sunbed. I needed a coffee and walked to the café bar/restaurant which owned the sunbeds for a Greek coffee. The café bar was opulence itself and the toilets were so clean you could eat in them. That evening the apartment owner drove me inland to a little village called Ano Mera where I found a taverna in the village square for my final meal of the holiday. The waiter started chatting to me and it turned out that he spent all winter in England – Birmingham to be exact – working in a Greek restaurant. Because it was downhill to our accommodation I walked back the two kilometers to the room rather than take a taxi and had a good night’s rest.
Tuesday 18th July 2017
The guy who had collected me from the port drove me to the airport – earlier than I needed to get there and as I had nothing to do I decided to find a café and chill out at the airport, which was exactly what I did. So, another nail biting journey took place! He stopped at a bakery for koulouri (a sweet break ring topped with sesame seeds) and crisp cheese straws that the accommodation owner had treated me for breakfast. The EasyJet flight left on time and I mentioned that Gray was my nephew and got some free food and drink on the plane. Arrived safely back in blighty at 19:00.
© 2017 Philip Cooper